It was 25 years ago that Anastasia Soare set her sights on the prestigious Beverly Hills zip code, 90210.
When the only non-English-speaking job available to her was esthetician, the Romanian immigrant-turned-entrepreneur eventually chose the palm tree-adorned streets of the stars to launch a namesake beauty salon. There, she developed a distinguished clientele by shaping eyebrows.
Two-and-a-half decades later, the original Anastasia Beverly Hills salon remains — but its name has become more synonymous with the cosmetics brand it birthed. According to a Forbes June 2022 report, Soare’s businesses have earned her a $660 million net worth and the title of 38th wealthiest self-made woman in America. In 2019, she was on Forbes’ billionaires list when she sold a minority stake of her cosmetics brand to TPG Capital at a reported $3 billion valuation.
Soare’s work has graced the faces of Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Coolidge, Kim Kardashian, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama, among others. And her brand has more than 20.3 million followers across Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.
Recalling an art teacher’s lesson on the Golden Ratio Theory, Soare said she gained curiosity in eyebrows early on. “He was always telling us that, if you want to draw a portrait and you want to change the emotion, you change the eyebrows,” she told Glossy during a Zoom call from her Beverly Hills home. “You could make a person look surprised or sad or happy, or very sophisticated and elegant, by shaping the eyebrows correctly.”
Noticing a fault in her own eyebrows, thanks to a Romanian esthetician’s over-plucking back home, Soare found herself on a mission to amend the issue for herself and others. She started while working for another salon owner.
“I realized I looked surprised in pictures,” she said. “After I fixed my eyebrows, my clients started telling me I looked different. They’d tell me I looked rested or asked if I got a haircut. I started sharing with them what I did, and [as time went on], I started shaping their eyebrows before their facials.”
Soare eventually suggested to the salon’s owner that they offer eyebrow shaping as a paid service. “She said, ‘No, nobody wants it. It’s not important. Stop doing that,’” Soare recalled. So she decided to rent a room in a Beverly Hills salon, offering her usual facials and body waxing, but with the addition of eyebrow services.
By 1994, Soare’s work was “kind of the best kept secret in Hollywood,” she said. Celebrities, publicists and makeup artists flocked to the guru, whose room was conveniently located across the street from Neiman Marcus. “The makeup artists realized that, if they sent the client to have their eyebrows done, the end makeup looks were so much better and they were easier for them to do on the client.”
Soare attributes much of her success to her brand’s original formulations and concepts. Experimenting with aloe vera, eyeshadow and vaseline led to her popular Dipbrow Pomade formula. And in Jan. 2021, she set out to combat the flakiness left on brows from dried soap — a massive social media trend. This led her to launch Brow Freeze, the No. 1 selling brow wax, according to NPD retail data analysis. Soare is meticulous and hands-on with every product ideation, even using a different formula for every single eyeshadow in her palettes. She currently launches an average of 8-10 products each year. Her entire portfolio, excluding kits, includes 14 brow products, 29 color products, three skincare products, five beauty tools and 28 brushes.
In addition to effective product development, Soare has achieved success by securing relationships with high-profile clients. “When I started out, I was fresh from Romania, fresh off the boat. I came from a Communist country, so I didn’t know who they were!” she said, regarding her initial work with celebrities. Even upon developing friendly relationships with her clients, Soare made a point to never get too comfortable. “I wanted to do the best eyebrows I could. It didn’t matter who I was working on,” she said. “Celebrities are used to the best of the best. …. [So] you need to be very good.”
In 2022, Anastasia Beverly Hills registered triple-digit sales increases in lip liner, cream bronzer, cream blush and concealer, while maintaining its placement as the best-selling brow brand, according to the NPD’s year-end data.
Moving forward, consumers can expect another chapter of innovation for the trailblazing brand. Soare said future launches will depend on three components: the consumer, advancements in cosmetic science and accessibility.
“Always listen to the customer,” she said. “That’s what’s made us so successful on social media. We read the comments, we ask questions. They know what they like. Even if they aren’t makeup-savvy, they’ll still know which [of their options offers] the best quality and the best performance.”
Soare also credited her daughter, ABH president Claudia Soare, for helping to maximize the brand’s opportunities. Claudia worked behind the scenes at the brand for years before taking on a more formal role in 2012. She eventually launched the Gen Z-driven, ABH spinoff brand Norvina, coined after her birth name. The brand centers on the vibrant, neon eye makeup shades seen all over TikTok.
“We like to innovate, as you know. We’re probably working on 50 products at any time,” Anastasia Soare said. “But it takes a very long time to put a product on the shelves.”
ABH has experienced ups and downs, especially in the last five years. In 2018, it issued $650 million in term loans, according to Fitch Ratings. The company generated roughly $240 million in annual revenue for the 12 months ending March 2022, according to Moody’s.
As for technological advancements, Soare pointed out the difference between products she launched in 2000 and her latest launches. “The [Dipbrow Pomade] was a different formula when we launched it, because the technology wasn’t so advanced at the time,” she said. For example, “it wasn’t waterproof.”
To make ABH more accessible, she wants to ensure it offers suitable shades for every shopper. “It doesn’t matter what color eyebrow she has. She should be able to use our products,” she said.
Soare called the brand’s Brow Wiz her “absolute favorite” brow product. It’s the No. 1 brow product in the U.S. by units and dollars, according to NPD.
And she shared her top grooming advice: It’s necessary to use at least two products to achieve natural, full brows.
“Use one product that’s one shade lighter than your hair as a base to form the shape,” she said. “Then use another product to create hair strokes, and then blend.”
As she reflects on the past and looks to what’s ahead, she said she has hope for anyone following in her footsteps. “The American Dream is still alive, because America has so many opportunities,” she said. “An immigrant can see that much better than a person who is born here. I see opportunities all the time, and I’m excited for the future.”